Subjunctive: Irregular Conjugations

Subjonctif : conjugaisons irrégulières

French subjunctive
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The subjunctive conjugations for many otherwise irregular verbs are regular, but not all. Stem-changing verbs and what I like to call very, extremely, or ridiculously irregular verbs have irregular subjunctive conjugations.

Stem-changing verbs

Stem-changing verbs have a two-stem subjunctive conjugation. The present tense third person plural (ils) conjugation provides the stem for singular as well as third person plural subjunctive conjugations (just as it does for regular verbs), the upshot of which is that the stem change occurs in these conjugations. The stem for the first and second person plural is based on the present tense first person plural (nous) conjugation.

 leverjeter essayer
present tense: ils lèventjettentessaient
 stem lèv-jett-essai-
subjunctive endings   
… que je / j’-elève jette essaie
… que tu-eslèves jettesessaies
… qu’il/elle/on -elève jetteessaie
… qu’ils/elles-entlèvent jettentessaient
present tense: nous levonsjetonsessayons
 stem lev-jet-essay-
subjunctive endings  
… que nous-ionslevions jetionsessayions
… que vous-iezleviezjetiez essayiez

Very irregular verbs

Very irregular verbs*  follow this same two-stem pattern:

 devoir prendre tenir
present tense: ils doiventprennenttiennent
 stem doiv-prenn-tienn-
subjunctive endings   
… que je-e doive prennetienne
… que tu-es doivesprennestiennes
… qu’il/elle/on -e doiveprennetienne
… qu’ils/elles-ent doiventprennenttiennent
present tense: nous devonsprenonstenons
 stem dev-pren-ten-
subjunctive endings  
… que nous-ionsdevionsprenionstenions
… que vous-iezdeviez preniezteniez

* As opposed to irregular verbs that have regular subjunctive conjugations.

Extremely irregular verbs

Seven extremely French verbs have irregular subjunctive stems but take the same endings. Of these, faire, pouvoir, and savoir have a single subjunctive stem, while aller, valoir, and vouloir have two: one for the singular and the third person plural conjugations, and the other for the first and second person plural:

 fairepouvoirsavoir allervaloirvouloir
stems fass-puiss-sach- aill- / all-vaill- / val-veuill- / voul-
… que je / j’fassepuissesache aillevailleveuille
… que tufassespuissessaches aillesvaillesveuilles
… qu’il/elle/on fassepuissesache aillevailleveuille
… que nousfassionspuissionssachions allionsvalions voulions
… que vousfassiezpuissiezsachiez alliezvaliezvouliez
… qu’ils/ellesfassentpuissentsachent aillentvaillent veuillent

As an impersonal verb, falloir has only one subjunctive conjugation: … qu’il faille.

Ridiculously irregular verbs

Of course, the ridiculously irregular verbs avoir and être remain true to form in the subjunctive, with two irregular stems as well as irregular endings:

  avoir être   
… que je / j’ aie sois
… que tu aies sois
… qu’il/elle/on  ait soit
… que nous ayons soyons
… que vous ayez soyez
… qu’ils/elles aient soient

 Subjunctive Quizzes

Think you’ve got it? Test yourself on the French subjunctive with these fill-in-the-blanks exercises:

Note: You must be logged into your Progress with Lawless French account to take these tests. If you don’t have one, sign up – it’s free!

  More French subjunctive

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French subjunctive - irregular verbs

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